Voting for Empower Eau Claire has begun

Residents have power to make change through Empower Eau Claire program


Empower Eau Claire is based on fostering equity, diversity and inclusion in the community, and empowering residents to get involved in local government.

Voting is underway for Empower Eau Claire, a participatory budget program allowing residents to vote for initiatives they want funded in the community, according to City of Eau Claire Associate Planner Taylor Graybehl.

According to the Participatory Budgeting Project, participatory budgeting began in 1989 in Porto Alegre, Brazil as part of an effort to reduce poverty and has since spread around the world.

Jacksen Wolff, UW-Eau Claire student and co-chair of the steering committee, said this is the first participatory budget program in Wisconsin.

The program is based on fostering equity, diversity and inclusion in the community, and empowering residents to get involved in local government, according to the City of Eau Claire.

Graybehl said the process began when the Eau Claire City Council voted to adopt the participatory budget program and allocate $300,000 in funding.

Next, a steering committee was formed with a diverse group of community volunteers, and they began collecting project ideas from members of the community, according to Graybehl.

Graybehl said the steering committee then narrowed down the project ideas and approved the ballot.

According to the City of Eau Claire, the ballot includes initiatives to create a cultural trail for the Hmong and Latino communities, new shipping and receiving equipment for the Feed My People: Hunger Action-Emergency Response center and wheelchair-accessible playground equipment.

The ballot uses ranked-choice voting and residents get to vote for their top five choices out of the 14 projects.

“It’s been people-ran throughout the whole process,” Graybehl said. “Their ideas the people refined and made the projects great, and now you all get to vote and decide which ones are funded.”

Graybehl said permanent and temporary residents of Eau Claire who are in sixth grade or older can vote for the participatory budgeting.

According to the City of Eau Claire, voting will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, and 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, from April 26 through May 13 in the Eau Claire City Library and online.

Graybehl said voting online is very easy and only takes a few minutes.

Students have an opportunity to get service-learning hours through volunteering with Empower Eau Claire, according to Graybehl.

Graybehl said volunteering with this program helps develop event planning, advocacy and delegation skills.

“These skills can all be used in ways outside of Empower Eau Claire and that’s really the goal of this program, to help increase the capacity of the residents and students so they can better advocate for themselves at the local level,” Graybehl said.

By volunteering as a meeting facilitator, budget delegate, outreach specialist or poll worker, students can complete their full 30 hour service-learning requirement, according to UW-Eau Claire.

Empower Eau Claire, in partnership with the intergovernmental affairs commission, has tabled in Davies Student Center and the McIntyre Library to get the message out to students.

“The students of UW-Eau Claire have been recognized as a group that is either historically marginalized or not always represented in the local government,” Graybehl said. “So we are really specifically reaching out to you all because we think it’s important.”

Graybehl said residents can stay updated on the chosen projects by following the City of Eau Claire Facebook account and website, or signing up to be added to a contact list.


Kasper can be reached at [email protected].